High Altitude Baking: Chocolate-pecan cheesecake tart with caramel sauce (recipe)
High Country Baking
Editor’s note: High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Layers of flavor and texture … that’s what makes this tart special. Nuts and chopped chocolate, laced together with caramel, are crowned with a cheesecake topping. Crunchy, gooey, bitter and sweet — the sum of these parts creates a very appealing whole.
I often make, bake and store (covered airtight) the tart shell the day before continuing with the recipe. Then, the next morning, I fill and bake the tart.
You can use the pre-chopped pecan pieces that are available commercially or make your own by coarsely chopping whole pecans. In either case, measure them after they’ve been chopped. Chocolate chunks, which are semisweet chocolate chopped into irregular, quarter-inch pieces, can be found in most grocery stores. If you don’t have them, chop your own from a high-quality bar of semisweet chocolate. Purchase a flavorful, thick caramel sauce to assure a rich texture for the tart filling.
Chocolate-pecan cheesecake tart
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Make in a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Use your favorite tart shell, pre-baked and cooled.
1 cup pecan pieces, toasted
1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
½ cup commercial caramel sauce
8 ounces full-fat cream cheese, softened
8 ounces sour cream
½ cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
1¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
Grated chocolate or cocoa powder, optional
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position.
Fill the tart shell: Scatter the pecan pieces and chocolate chunks evenly over the bottom of the prebaked tart shell. Drizzle the caramel sauce over them. Set aside.
Make the cheesecake topping: With a food processor: Cut the cream cheese into eight pieces, add them with the sour cream, sugar and vanilla to the bowl and pulse to blend until completely smooth. Add the eggs and pulse until combined. (Don’t overprocess or topping will become runny.) With a mixer: Cut the cream cheese into eight pieces, add them with the sour cream, sugar and vanilla to a mixing bowl and beat on low speed until combined and smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating at low speed, until blended.
Pour the topping over the filling to just below the edge of the tart shell. You may not use it all; 9-inch tart pans have varying depths and capacities. Slip the filled tart onto a cookie sheet, and cover the edges of the pre-baked tart shell with strips of aluminum foil to prevent over-browning.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the cheesecake topping is set (the center should not be wet and should barely jiggle when the tart is moved). Remove to a rack to cool for two hours, and then move to the refrigerator for at least one more hour or overnight (covered). Sprinkle the top with grated chocolate or cocoa powder, if using, just before serving. It’s tasty at both room temperature and chilled; the choice is yours.
This is a variation of a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens. Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbook “Cookies in the Clouds” (available at The Bookworm of Edwards), is a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.